Easy Smoked BBQ Meatballs Recipe

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These Smoked BBQ Meatballs are a must in your dinner rotation. They deliver a flavor everybody will love. Combination of juicy, tender meats and sticky, smoky barbecue sauce. What’s not to crave?

The Smoked BBQ Meatballs are ridiculously easy to make, which is always a win in my book. Nobody has time for complicated recipes when you’re craving some serious comfort food?

cooked bbq meatballs in a sauce pan, small dish with bbq sauce and a sauce brush, smoked meatball recipe

Why we love Smoked BBQ Meatballs

  • Texture, flavor and convenience
  • Easy and quick to make
  • Great for meal prep
  • Great for sharing, feeding the crowd
  • Perfect to customize to your liking

Ingredients, Variations and Substitutions  

Ground beef – typically from the chuck or sirloin cuts, is a versatile and flavorful protein base for the meatballs. Opt for lean ground beef for a healthier option, or use a higher fat content for juicier meatballs. Experiment with different levels of fat content to achieve your desired texture. Ground turkey or chicken can be used as a leaner alternative to ground beef, while ground lamb or veal can provide a different flavor profile.

Ground pork – adds moisture, tenderness, and a slightly sweet flavor to the meatballs. It complements the beef and enhances the overall taste. Look for ground pork with a good balance of lean meat and fat for juicier meatballs. Fat content can affect the texture and flavor, so adjust according to personal preference. Ground veal or Italian sausage can be used as substitutes for ground pork, offering similar richness and flavor.

Garlic – adds aromatic depth and savory flavor to the meatballs. Use fresh garlic cloves for the best flavor. Finely mince or crush them to distribute evenly throughout the meat mixture. Garlic powder or garlic paste can be used as alternatives. Adjust the quantity to taste.

Cumin and chili powder – are spices that add warmth, earthiness, and a hint of heat to the meatballs. Use ground cumin and chili powder for consistent flavor. You can use smoked paprika instead of chili powder or add other spices such as paprika, oregano, or coriander for different flavor profiles.

Chipotle in adobo sauce – provides smoky, spicy, and tangy flavor to the meatballs. It adds depth and complexity to the dish. Chipotle peppers are quite spicy, so adjust the quantity based on your heat tolerance. Be mindful of the adobo sauce, which can also be salty. If chipotle in adobo is unavailable, you can use smoked paprika or hot sauce for smoky flavor and heat.

BBQ sauce – is the star of the dish, providing sweet, tangy, and smoky flavor to the meatballs. It adds moisture and richness to the smoked meat mixture and glazes the homemade meatballs beautifully. Sweet, spicy or tangy choose a BBQ sauce to match your taste preferences. Adjust the quantity based on how saucy you want the meatballs to be.

Salt enhances the natural flavors of the ingredients and helps to season the meatballs. Pepper adds a subtle kick and depth of flavor. Season the meat mixture to taste with salt and pepper, keeping in mind the salt content of other ingredients such as the BBQ sauce and cheese.  

Smoked gouda or parmesan cheese help to bind the ingredients together and adds savory flavor. You can experiment with different types of cheese for variation, such as cheddar, mozzarella, or asiago. Any melty cheese like cheddar, mozzarella, or provolone can be used as a substitute for smoked gouda or parmesan.

Onion adds sweetness, depth, and moisture to the meatballs. It enhances the overall flavor profile and provides a subtle crunch. Dice or grate the onion finely to ensure even distribution throughout the meat mixture. Cook the onion slightly if you prefer a milder flavor. Shallots, onion powder or green onions can be used as alternatives to regular onions for a milder flavor.

Heavy whipping cream adds richness, moisture, and tenderness to the meatballs. It creates a creamy texture and prevents the meat mixture from becoming too dry. Use cold heavy whipping cream straight from the fridge for best results. You can substitute half-and-half or whole milk. Adjust the quantity based on desired creaminess.

Eggs act as a binder, helping to hold the meatballs together and maintain their shape during cooking. They add moisture and richness to the meat mixture. Lightly whisk the eggs before adding them to the meat mixture to ensure even distribution. If allergic to eggs or following a vegan diet, you can use flax eggs (1 tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 3 tbsp water per egg) or commercial egg replacers as alternatives. Read HERE more about egg substitutes you can use when making meatballs.

Crushed chicharrones (pork rinds) act as a filler and binder in the meatballs. They absorb moisture and help to hold the ingredients together. Use finely crushed chicharrones or breadcrumbs for a smoother texture in the meatballs. Panko breadcrumbs, crushed crackers, or even crushed potato chips can be used as alternatives to pork rinds for added flavor and texture. 

Olive oil used when cooking on a pan. It helps to brown the meatballs evenly. Use extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor and quality. Coat the pan evenly with olive oil before adding the meatballs to ensure even cooking. Canola oil, vegetable oil, or avocado oil can be used as alternatives to olive oil for cooking the meatballs. 

BBQ Meatballs on a sesrving platter, slices of bread, two glasses, dish with bbq sauce and a sauce brush

Equipment you will need

  • Mixing bowls
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Large baking sheet
  • Grilling tray
  • Sauce brush
  • Large cooking pan
  • Cheese grater (optional)

Top Tips for Smoked BBQ Meatballs

  • Use a combination of meats for flavor and texture. Ground beef adds richness, while ground pork adds moisture. Ground veal, lamb, or poultry are also great choices.
  • Mix the ingredients gently just until combined. Overmixing will result in tough meatballs. 
  • Opt for fresh herbs, spices, and aromatics like garlic and onion for maximum flavor.
  • Don’t be shy with the salt and pepper. Season the meat mixture well to enhance the flavors of the ingredients. Taste the mixture before forming the meatballs to ensure it’s properly seasoned.
  • Ingredients like breadcrumbs, eggs, and dairy (such as milk or cream) help keep the meatballs moist and tender. Be mindful not to add too much, as this can make the mixture too wet.
  • Binders like eggs and breadcrumbs help hold the meatballs together. Be sure to use the right ratio of binders to meat for the perfect texture.
  • Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before forming the meatballs. This helps the flavors meld together and makes the mixture easier to handle.
  • For evenly sized meatballs, use a cookie or ice cream scoop to portion out the mixture. This ensures that all the meatballs cook at the same rate.
  • Preheat the skillet or oven before cooking the meatballs.
  • Brown the meatballs on all sides before finishing them in the sauce or oven. This adds flavor and texture to the meatballs.
  • Cook to the right temperature: Use a meat thermometer to ensure the meatballs are cooked through. Ground meat should reach an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C).
  • Let them rest: Allow the meatballs to rest for a few minutes before serving. This allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in juicier meatballs.
bbq meatballs on a serving plate with mashed potatoes, slice of bread with butter, glass of water, small dish with salad and chives

Step by step instructions for the smoker

  • Gather all the necessary ingredients listed in the smoked meatballs recipe.
  • Measure and prepare each ingredient according to the specified quantities.
  • Preheat the smoker to 225°F (107°C). Hickory, apple, or cherry wood pellets are excellent choices for adding flavor to meatballs.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine ground beef, ground pork, minced garlic, grated onion, spices or seasonings (such as cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper).

  • Add the chipotle in adobo sauce, 2 tbsp BBQ sauce, shredded gouda, crushed chicharrones, and lightly whisked eggs to the bowl.
  • Gently mix the ingredients together until well combined, being careful not to overmix.
  • Using your hands, shape the meat mixture into uniform size meatballs. Typically around 1 to 2 inches in diameter or 30 grams. Place meatballs on a wire rack or grilling tray.

  • Once the smoker is preheated, place the wire rack with the meatballs inside the smoker.
  • Close the smoker lid and let the meatballs smoke at 225°F (107°C) for approximately 1 to 1.5 hours, or until they reach an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C).

  • Optionally, you can baste the meatballs with additional BBQ sauce halfway through the smoking process for added flavor.
  • 15 min before finishing the cook, transfer the meatballs to a large cooking pan and add the rest of the BBQ sauce. Sauté for 15-20 minutes.
  • Garnish with fresh herbs, if desired, and serve hot with additional BBQ sauce for dipping or drizzling.

Bake in the Oven

  • Place the meatballs in the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until cooked through and browned on the outside.
  • If desired, broil the meatballs for an additional 2-3 minutes to achieve a caramelized exterior.

Pan-Fry on the Stovetop

  • Add olive oil to the preheated skillet and swirl to coat the bottom.
  • Carefully add the meatballs to the skillet, ensuring they are not overcrowded.
  • Cook the meatballs for 6-8 minutes, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides and cooked through.

Serving Suggestions:

  • Incorporate meatballs into various dishes such as sandwiches, wraps, pasta, or salads.
  • Drizzle with additional BBQ sauce for extra flavor, or serve alongside dipping sauces like ranch or honey mustard.
  • Garnish with fresh herbs or grated cheese for added flavor.

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Storage instructions, reheating

  • Refrigeration:
    • allow the cooked meatballs to cool completely at room temperature before storing.
    • Place them in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag.
    • Use within 3-4 days for optimal freshness.
  • Freezing:
    • place the cooled meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze until solid.
    • Then transfer them to a freezer-safe container or resealable freezer bag.
    • use within 2-3 months for the best quality and taste.  
  • Reheating:
    • From refrigerator:
      • Microwave: Place the desired number of meatballs in a microwave-safe dish. Cover with a damp paper towel to prevent them from drying out. Microwave on high in 30-second intervals until heated through, stirring occasionally.
      • Stovetop: Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a splash of water or broth. Add the smoked meatballs to the skillet and cover with a lid. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until heated through, stirring occasionally.
      • Oven: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Place the meatballs in a baking dish and cover with foil. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until heated through.
    • From the freezer:
      • Thaw the frozen bbq meatballs overnight in the refrigerator or use the defrost setting on your microwave.
      • Follow the same reheating instructions as for refrigerated meatballs, adjusting the cooking time as needed to ensure they are heated through.

Be sure to check the internal temperature of the meatballs with a meat thermometer to ensure they reach a safe temperature of 165°F (74°C) before serving. Enjoy your delicious reheated meatballs!

bbq meatballs sub front view

BBQ Meatballs on a sesrving platter, slices of bread, two glasses, dish with bbq sauce and a sauce brush

BBQ Meatballs from the smoker

Sylwia Vaclavek
Those easy BBQ Meatballs deliver flavor everybody will be craving. Combination of tender meat, sticky, smoky bbq sauce makes them great as a meal prep or to share at a potluck party.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 5 minutes
Course Appetizer, Dinner, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 10
Calories 421 kcal

Equipment

  • mixing bowls
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • large baking sheet
  • grilling tray
  • sauce brush
  • large cooking pan
  • cheese grater

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp chipotle in adobo
  • 2 cup bbq sauce 2 tbsp reserved
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ cup gouda shredded
  • ½ onion diced or grated
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup chicharones crushed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Gather all the necessary ingredients listed in the recipe.
  • Measure and prepare each ingredient according to the specified quantities.
  • Preheat the smoker to 225°F (107°C) if smoking them, or preheat a skillet over medium heat if pan-frying. Hickory, apple, or cherry wood are excellent choices for adding flavor to meatballs.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, ground pork, finely chopped garlic cloves, grated onion, and any additional spices or seasonings (such as cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper).
  • Add the chipotle in adobo sauce, 2 tbsp BBQ sauce, shredded gouda, crushed chicharrones, and lightly whisked eggs to the bowl.
  • Gently mix the ingredients together until well combined, being careful not to overmix.
  • Using a cookie scoop or your hands, portion out the meat mixture into 30 g meatballs. Using your hands roll it into evenly sized meatballs, about 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter. Arrange the meatballs on a wire rack, grill tray.
  • Once the smoker is preheated, place the wire rack with the meatballs inside the smoker.
  • Close the smoker lid and let the meatballs smoke at 225°F (107°C) for approximately 1 to 1.5 hours, or until they reach an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C).
  • Optionally, you can baste the meatballs with additional BBQ sauce halfway through the smoking meatballs process for added flavor.
  • 15 min before finishing the cook, transfer the meatballs to a large cooking pan and add the rest of the BBQ sauce. Saute for 15-20 minutes.
  • Garnish with chopped fresh herbs, if desired, and serve hot with additional BBQ sauce for dipping or drizzling.

Notes

  • Mix the ingredients gently just until combined. Overmixing will result in tough meatballs. 
  • Opt for fresh herbs, spices, and aromatics like garlic and onion for maximum flavor.
  • Don’t be shy with the salt and pepper. Season the meat mixture well to enhance the flavors of the ingredients. Taste the mixture before forming the meatballs to ensure it’s properly seasoned.
  • Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before forming the meatballs. This helps the flavors meld together and makes the mixture easier to handle.
  • For evenly sized meatballs, use a cookie or ice cream scoop to portion out the mixture. This ensures that all the meatballs cook at the same rate.

Nutrition

Serving: 4pieceCalories: 421kcalCarbohydrates: 25gProtein: 21gFat: 26gSaturated Fat: 10gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 114mgSodium: 996mgPotassium: 431mgFiber: 1gSugar: 20gVitamin A: 364IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 91mgIron: 2mg
Keyword bbq, meatballs
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Conclusion

Do you agree, those Smoked BBQ Meatballs sound amazing and are easy to make. Adding the chipotle in adobo and BBQ sauce makes them truly delicious. They are perfect for meal prep and serving them throughout the week on a sub, with pasta, veggie bowl or making a meatball pizza. 

FAQ about BBQ Meatballs

Can I make meatballs without breadcrumbs?

Yes, you can make meatballs without breadcrumbs by using alternative binders such as crushed crackers, oatmeal, or grated vegetables like zucchini or carrots. These alternatives help hold the meatballs together and add moisture without the need for breadcrumbs. Click HERE to read more about alternatives to breadcrumbs.

How do I keep my meatballs from falling apart?

Make sure to use a proper binding agent such as breadcrumbs, eggs, or a combination of both. Also, avoid overmixing the meat mixture, as this can make it too dense and cause the smoke meatballs to become tough.

Can I make meatballs ahead of time?

Yes, you can make meatballs ahead of time. Store them in the refrigerator for a few days or freeze them for longer storage. Just be sure to allow them to cool completely before storing them in an airtight container or freezer bag.

Can meatballs be made without eggs

Yes, there are multiple substitutes you can use instead. You can use breadcrumbs, yogurt or tomato sauce instead of eggs. Start with ¼ cup. You can read more HERE about great alternatives to eggs.

Can I bake meatballs instead of frying them?

Absolutely! Baking meatballs is a healthier alternative to frying and can yield delicious results. Simply arrange the meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in a preheated oven until cooked through and browned on the outside.

What kind of meat should I use for meatballs?

Ground beef is a common choice for meatballs, you can also use a combination of meats such as beef and pork for added flavor. Experiment with different types of ground meat like turkey, chicken, or lamb to suit your taste preferences.

Can I serve baked beans with BBQ meatballs?

Yes, baked beans are a perfect side dish for BBQ meatballs. The rich, sweet, and slightly smoky flavor of baked beans complements the savory taste of meatballs. This combination creates a classic, hearty meal that’s ideal for gatherings or family dinners. You can even mix some baked beans into your meatball sauce for added flavor and texture.

How do I know when meatballs are cooked through?

The internal temperature of cooked meatballs should reach 160°F (71°C) when measured with a meat thermometer. Alternatively, you can cut into a meatball to check for any signs of pinkness, indicating that it needs more time to cook.

Can I freeze meatballs?

Yes, meatballs freeze very well and can be stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 months. Place the cooked and cooled meatballs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze until solid. Then transfer them to a freezer-safe container or bag for long-term storage. Click HERE to read more about storage instructions.

What sauces go well with meatballs?

Meatballs pair well with a variety of sauces, including marinara sauce, BBQ sauce, sweet and sour sauce, or gravy. Choose a sauce that complements the flavors of your delicious meatballs and serves it alongside or drizzle it over the meatballs before serving.

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